A SINGLE ambulance service now covers the whole of the south west.

The enlarged South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) came into existence today following its acquisition of the Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS), which covered Wiltshire.

SWASFT, which previously covered Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, now covers Wiltshire as well as Gloucestershire and the former Avon district.

The new service employs about 4,000 people and it will help about 2,000 patients a day.

Ken Wenman, chief executive of SWASFT, said: “With a larger workforce, we have greater resilience and flexibility to meet the challenges in healthcare in the months and years ahead. Also, we are better able to invest in cutting-edge treatment and research, and to continue to train our staff to better care for patients in the out-of-hospital environment.

“With an annual turnover of £210million, we can benefit from greater economies of scale to obtain better value in buying medical equipment and emergency vehicles.”

The acquisition was given final approval by the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt last month following a 14-month consultation process.

Mr Wenman added: “Throughout the engagement process, people were concerned that our size would mean we lose sight of local needs – I fully understand those concerns, so can reassure people that in the enlarged trust we will maintain the benefits of local leadership, keeping that direct link with local communities.”